It was 4 AM and I was wide awake. I had had too much coffee the day before and although I had somehow fallen asleep, a nightmare had jolted me awake and my body was still vibrating. I had a choice. I could either close my eyes and wait for the sleep I knew would eventually come, or I could do something exciting. Something I hadn't done in a long time. "Fuck it," I grumbled, and swung my feet onto the wood floor. I stumbled into my bathroom, stripped down, and hopped in the shower for a quick wake-up attempt. The cold water shocked me mostly conscious, and I stepped out of the shower, my cat weaving around my legs, leaving his black hair caked on my ankles. I made a few quick swipes with a towel and threw on my swimsuit, rashguard, the nearest pair of shorts, and my beat-up Chacos. Next came the fun part. I walked into my living room and stared at my 10ft yellow Pelican kayak, propped up where a couch would go in a typical house. Getting it out is always tricky. I have to manage a quick cat with an insatiable wanderlust, a heavy kayak blocked in by two walls, a cranky neighbor who hears everything and hates me for it, and a screen door that slams sharply due to a broken spring. First, I shut Rama in the bathroom. Then I propped open the screen door. Slowly I jimmied the kayak to where I could waddle it out the door and off the porch, and hoisted it onto my roof rack, all as silently and gracefully as Charlie Chaplin.
Then I gathered water, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, my sketchpad, and my camera, let Rama out of the bathroom, strapped my kayak down, and hit the road.
Then I drove.
I drove for hours, to somewhere I'd never been. I passed fields I'd never seen, on roads I'll probably never see again. I had told no one where I was going. These hours were all my own. That morning, the sun rose just for me, over the rolling hills of eastern Oklahoma.
I arrived at the lake at 7:00 AM, and upon stepping out of the car was greeted by a heinous amount of wind. "Fuck." I had parked near a fishing dock, and as I stepped out in my shorts and rashguard, the men in Carharts turned to look at me. I stood, watching the high chop lap the otherworldly tree skeletons that does the entirety of this particular lake. It looked brutal. I turned and unstrapped my kayak, lifting it off the rack more gracefully than I had put it on a few hours earlier, lest the fishermen think I was a pussy. I lay her on the ground, secured my goods in the hatch and bow, locked my car, and dragged her to the water's edge. The sun felt warm on my skin, and the glittering water seemed excited I was there to play with it. "You sure you wanna do that?" one man asked me, the Ron Swansonesque version of my inner voice. "Yeah! It'll be fun!" I sat inside, grabbed my paddle, and scooted into the water. I was immediately blown back into the shore, and had to shove my paddle down into the mud to propel myself forward in the shallow water. Eventually I pushed past the dock, out of the little lagoon, and into the open water.
And it was fun. I scared a huge flock of adorable tiny ducks, and they flew in front of me like fish schooling in the air. I chased them for a while, just for the fun of it.
I explored down tiny tributaries, where I found lagoons and birds' nests. I admired the alien landscape of this weird lake, uniformly shallow with dead trees jutting up through the water every few yards. I took lots of pictures.
I took a nap, floating through the treescape.
My only goal that day was to get to the lake, and I'd made it. Everything else was just a bonus. Although I enjoyed relaxing, the trip back to the dock was the most enjoyable part. The chop was insane for a small lake--nothing inside my kayak stayed dry. I had to constantly paddle as hard as I could to keep perpendicular to the 18-inch waves that I knew would instantly roll me and all my gear if I let myself get sideways (a cold, excellent metaphor for life). The wind whipped my hair and blew cold water into my eyes. I had to dodge upright and barely submerged tree carcasses and large boulders. My shoulders burned and my abs clenched, but I knew I couldn't rest or my short, squat vessel would give up the ghost to a very shallow-dwelling Davy Jones.
I like to think I looked like a badass warrior queen crashing through the waves, but I think I probably just looked wet and squinty.
Finally, with one last muddy stroke the bow slid up onto the beach. I let out a triumphant whoop and the beach newcomers gave me a short glance. "Did you see that?" I wanted to ask them. But I didn't.
Because It didn't matter. I saw it. I did it. I dragged my ass out to the middle of nowhere and had an experience that was all mine.
Just for fun.
Photos (c) Madeline Dillner